Judy Belushi Pisano and her Chevy Volt

Our columnist catches up with an old friend to talk R&B and EVs.

I originally met Judy Belushi Pisano, widow of the late John Belushi, when I was working on a project for the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, an organization dedicated to assisting R&B artists who, despite having a tremendous impact on the world through their music, were never fairly compensated for their work. My art director partner and I worked with Howell Begel, a Washington attorney, part-time Islander, and founder of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. Judy also worked with Howell and was put on our committee. 

Judy and I recently discussed working with the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and agreed that while of course it was a noble cause, it also came with some pretty hefty perks, such as getting to see R&B legends Ruth Brown and Little Jimmy Scott in concert, and attending an amazing board meeting with Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, Smokey Robinson, and co-founder of Elektra Records Ahmet Ertugen.

Our work with the foundation ended several years ago, but a random meeting with Judy last summer gave us a chance to work together again — this time for my “Cruising with Currier” column. Judy was playing the ukulele and opening for the reading of a one-act play by Gwynne McCallister at the Waterworks on Lake Tashmoo. In Judy’s opening remarks, she mentioned that she had a history of driving EVs, so naturally, I asked her if she would like to “cruise” sometime.

We agreed to meet at her house to go for our ride. Judy lives off Lagoon Pond in roughly the Hines Point area, just down the road from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Our ride consisted of a little jaunt around the neighborhood, with glimpses of the Lagoon and a special stop at the little fishing shack at the end of Skiff Avenue that has always been a personal favorite of mine. 

We were joined by photographer, Randi Baird, who had just flown back from California, where she was shooting for Bluedot San Diego and Bluedot Los Angeles, two of our new satellites (along with Martha’s Vineyard and Brooklyn, NY).

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Judy’s current car is a 2018 Chevy Volt, the fourth electric or hybrid car (following two Toyota Priuses and another Chevy Volt) that she’s owned in the past 20 years. “I may not be the world’s greatest authority on EVs,” Judy said, “but I may be the most experienced.” 

Judy was first introduced to a Chevy Volt when she was off-Island in her Prius visiting her daughter and her rearview camera broke. She decided to skip fixing it and instead trade it in on a Chevy Volt. “It was just a good fit for me,” she said. “The Volt had a better pickup than the Prius, it had better visibility, and in terms of roominess, I’d rank it ‘five Buddha heads.’ I once transported five Buddha heads by putting the tailgate down in the back and we all fit in comfortably. I liked both cars, but I’d give the edge to the Volt.”

“The Volt had a better pickup than the Prius,” Judy said, “it had better visibility and in terms of roominess, I’d rank it ‘five Buddha heads.’ I once transported five Buddha heads by putting the tailgate down in the back and we all fit in comfortably.”

Judy and John Belushi came to the Vineyard in 1976, in need of a vacation after their work on the off-Broadway show “Lemmings” and “The National Lampoon Radio Hour” — the precursor to “Saturday Night Live.” They immediately fell in love with the Island and vowed to return soon. Since then, Judy has lived in Chilmark and on William St. in Vineyard Haven, and, since seven years ago, on Lagoon Pond. Her family lives nearby, including children and grandchildren; her daughter Jessica, a painter, has an art studio adjacent to Judy’s property, overlooking the pond . “The number of people out here tends to vary,” Judy said, “but the numbers seem to swell in the summertime.”

At the base of the driveway are two chargers hanging off of a pergola which Judy relies on for keeping the EVs ready for the road.

Judy seems very happy with her Chevy Volts, which, like Priuses, are hybrids, meaning that they have gas tanks and run both from an internal combustion engine and from a rechargeable electric engine. The Volt was discontinued in 2019 so that GM could dedicate its resources to a new, all-electric model, the Chevy Bolt.

I asked Judy how John would have taken to electric vehicles, and she told me that he probably would have loved them. “John loved simplicity, and his favorite car was an old ’66 Volvo. But he was actually more of a motorcycle kind of guy. He loved driving his big Indian.” 

Now that the Volt has been discontinued, I asked Judy what her next EV might be? Her answer came as a bit of a surprise.  

“I intend to keep the Volt forever,” Judy said, “but as my family keeps growing — more grandchildren — I am looking to get a second vehicle relatively soon.” She’s always checking out alternative energy cars, and recently discovered the Ford Mustang, all electric Mach-e (first showcased in 2021), which, she says, is “probably my current choice. In high school, my car (aka my mother’s car) was a ’67 Mustang but, surprisingly, this new version is an eco-friendly SUV.” She says she hasn’t test-driven one yet, but “it’s supposed to be very sporty, has great features and a sharp design. What more could a girl want?”

The Facts:

Chevrolet is no longer offering the Chevy Volt. 

Last Starting Price Before Incentives: ($36,620).

Overall width without mirrors 71.2 inches

Height: 56.4 inches

Electric Driving Range: 53 miles

0-60 MPH: 7.5 seconds

Cargo 9.6 cubic feet.

Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive 

For the record, Judy believes she bought her 2018 Volt for about $30,000 in 2019.

Today, the new Chevy Bolt sells for about $30,000 as well. And the new Mustang EV is being offered in the mid-forties. But we’re not exactly sure of the “Buddha head capacity” of the Mustang.

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Geoff Currier is associate editor of The MV Times. He writes frequently for Edible Vineyard and MV Arts and Ideas magazines. “Grow a beard. You keep all those razor blades out of the landfills. And look rakishly handsome. It's a win-win.” “Cruising with Currier” will appear in each issue of Bluedot Living.
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